Predictors of mothers' postpartum body dissatisfaction

Dwenda Gjerdingen, Patricia Fontaine, Scott Crow, Patricia McGovern, Bruce Center, Michael Miner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Purpose: To investigate changes in mothers' body dissatisfaction from delivery to 9 months postpartum, and the relationship of postpartum body dissatisfaction to weight, other health, and social characteristics. Methods: In this prospective longitudinal study, 506 mothers completed surveys at 0-1 and 9 months postpartum. Postpartum changes in body dissatisfaction and weight were evaluated by paired t-tests, and predictors of postpartum body dissatisfaction were identified by stepwise multiple regression analysis. Results: Mothers' body dissatisfaction increased significantly from 0-1 to 9 months postpartum (mean scores of 15.2 and 18.2, respectively, p < 0.001). Although women lost an average of 10.1 pounds (sd D 16.3) or 4.6 kg. (sd D 7.4) between 0-1 and 9 months postpartum (p < 0.001), their weight at 9 months postpartum remained an average of 5.4 pounds (sd D 15.6) or 2.5 kg (sd D 7.1) above their pre-pregnancy weights (p < 0.001). Body dissatisfaction at 9 months postpartum was associated with overeating or poor appetite, higher current weight, worse mental health (SF-36 Mental Health scale), race other than black, bottlefeeding (vs. breastfeeding), being single (vs. married), and having fewer children. Conclusions: Mothers' body satisfaction worsened from 1 to 9 months postpartum, and 9-month body dissatisfaction was associated with eating/appetite abnormalities, greater weight, worse mental health, non-black race, non-breastfeeding status, and fewer immediate family relationships. Given these relationships, it is important to educate women about expected postpartum weight and body changes, and to find ways to enhance mothers' postpartum self-esteem and body satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-504
Number of pages14
JournalWomen and Health
Issue number6-7
StatePublished - Sep 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Received March 9, 2009; revised September 14, 2009; accepted October 7, 2009. This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. None of the authors has a conflict of interest. Address correspondence to Dwenda Gjerdingen, MD, MS, 580 Rice St., St. Paul, MN 55103. E-mail:


  • Body image
  • Mental health
  • Postpartum
  • Weight gain


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